A Museum In Baghdad – The Swan Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon
A Museum In Baghdad – a new play by Hannah Khalil that has been commissioned by The Royal Shakespeare Company – has premiered in The Swan Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon with Erica Whyman directing.
The play follows two female protagonists – Gertrude Bell and Ghalia Hussein – living many decades apart but both occupied with the preservation of Iraqi cultural artefacts and the task of re-opening the national Museum following war and civil unrest. Their parallel actions describe the never-ending and circular process of conserving a nation’s heritage in the face of political and social unrest and asks complex questions abut ownership, governance and humanity.
All of the action occurs within the Museum and Tom Piper’s elegant design delivers us inside its walls. The space is clad with a sand stone and blue tiling and two empty display cabinets allow us to imagine missing artefacts or treasures as yet still buried in the earth.
Nina’s Video Design was used to support the narrative and wider political situation in several ways: conjuring artefacts in empty cabinets, creating a supernatural sandstorm presence to signify a key treasure and transforming the space during the poetic chorus moments with languages from all ages appearing on the stone as if carved into the walls and floor.
Haunting projections light up the empty museum display cases, ghosts and goddesses stalk the stage, beauty and danger rise up together and Iraq’s history suddenly comes to life.
Tom Piper’s multimedia design is a masterpiece, bringing some stunning visuals to a fairly blank space.
The Stratford Observer
The show was due to transfer to London and run a the Kiln Theatre in April 2020 however this has been postponed due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
More information and a full cast and creative team list can be found here: https://www.rsc.org.uk/a-museum-in-baghdad/